How a tablet renewed my love of comic books
When I sold off my coveted comic book collection in 2001 in finance an adventuresome backpacking trip through Europe, the winds in my Wednesday sails that took me to the comic shop were taken away. I never lost any love for the medium, and in fact continued to read and talk aboutcomics, but never picked up the habit again of obtaining them with any sort of discipline. On rare occasions I’d snag a crusty copy of something from Big Fun – the nostalgia shop around the corner – and one time I picked up several trade paperbacks as research for an interview.
When Comixology launched in 2007, I was one of those people who decried it as a terrible idea. Like the emergence of e-books, I was against it philosophically, being of the mind that physical books I could hold in my hand were an escape from the digital world – not something to for it to absorb. Out of curiosity, I did put the app on my smartphone and download a few issues of Batman. But reading them on that small, 2009 screen just didn’t pass muster. It also felt like a waste of money, because what if the servers shut down someday?
Now flash-forward to today, and consider me a convert. While my collecting tendency is nowhere near what it used to be when my pull list was at least a half-dozen titles a week, I’ve certainly cottoned to the idea of a digital library. More than that, I’ve found the experience superior to the traditional longbox method. And I’ve got my Samsung Galaxy Tab to thank for that.
First of all, it’s a matter of accessibility. With all apologies to the mortar-and-brick shop that treated me to a Norm-from-Cheers-esque greeting whenever I’d pop in, the ability to tap a few MEMS keys and get to reading the latest comics from the comfort of home is exceedingly convenient. Since I’m all the way on the other side of town now, and if I’m not working excessive overtime then I’m trying to write as much as possible (e.g. what you’re reading right now), it’s gotten quite challenging to make the trek.
Second, and this is kind of a negative (at least to the pocketbook), it’s a heck of a lot easier to drop dollars on digital anything than it is to fork over cash or a debit card. More often than not, it’s too easy in fact, so much so that I’ve made online purchases almost on accident. When I’m at the store, admittedly I put much more thought into a purchase than I do laying there in bed. Much like Netflix post-play feature, when I get to the end of a great issue and the app entices with the next one at the tap of a button, I want to keep the ride going. That’s exactly how I wound up with a 12-issue Moon Knight run in my download library.
Third, but certainly not last, is directly related to that last bit. With digital comics, my burgeoning collection has evolved into something more sophisticated that tracking down every last back issue of a title for satisfy the completionist in me. Back in the day, I considered it something of a noble quest to procure an entire run of a series I liked which often involved traveling far and wide to store and cons to find a particular issue missing in my collection. It took me the better part of a year to fill out the 75-issue run of Aquaman’s 1994-2001 series, and I’d be lying if I said at some point I was just doing it out of some sort of reflex. After Peter David left, I lost a lot of interest in the book but I’d already come so far I figured why not get the whole thing? But now, when I browse through my digital collection, it’s plain to see the focus is more on the creator, not the creation. With the huge amount of issues – both old (I’m talking Ditko and Kirby old) and new, I’m free to conjure essentially anything I can think of at a moment’s notice. And more often than not these back issues are available for $0.99 or even for free. It’s not quarter bin, but then again I never found any Fourth World or Mister X stuff in those anyway.
A good discussion about the divide between digital and print comic books
The quality of these digital comics is without question, too. It’s true that there’s something kind of special about holding a yellowed copy of the Shocker’s first appearance in your hands. Imagining all the other geeks who might have thumbed through it over the decades before lovingly returning it to the bag-and-board archives eating up space in the garage/attic/basement is pretty cool. But it’s also pretty satisfying to carry my entire collection around anywhere I go and re-read them anytime I want in stunning HD color.
And there’s innovations, too. For example, for a couple of years now Marvel Comics has had their digital-only ‘Infinite Comics’ imprint and ‘Augmented Reality’ app that offers new ways for writers and artists to create comics and fans to enjoy them. As reported by Comics Alliance, these innovations “take advantage of the digital format with techniques that would not be possible in a print comic, like dynamic panel transitions and captions or dialogue boxes that appear sequentially on an image at the prompting of the reader.”
Overall, I’m really impressed with the world of digital comics that I’ve only just begun to explore. If, like I was, you consider yourself a purist in terms of keeping [comic]books strictly in the realm of words and images on paper, I think you ought to give their electronic counterparts a try. Like photochemical filmmaking and print journalism, those mediums have gone as far as they can go and a future facing the Internet of Things should only naturally include your most cherished reading materials. The transition may have been easier for me, having shed the fetters of my stacked longboxes, but the minimalist in me couldn’t be happier with the streamlined lifestyle afforded through digital technology. I suggest you start your collection with the recently-started Silver Surfer Infinite by Dan Slott and Mike Allred. Since it’s designed as a digital-only comic, it really takes advantage of the medium, and it’s a terrific take on a classic character.